At home with Asaf, Nadav, Tal, and their dad, Avi.

But Montell is neither immune to the fears nor glib about the tragic consequences of suicide bombings targeting Israelis. How could she be? She and her husband, Avi Ben-Tzur, a native-born Israeli and a planner at the Ministry of Environment, are raising twin boys, 3, and a daughter, 6, in a city that has been an epicenter of bloodshed. “When the suicide bombings and other attacks were frequent—say in 2002—we certainly were afraid for our safety,” she says. “My twin boys beg to ride the bus, but I never let them. I remember once—at the height of the bombings in 2002—as I was leaving B’Tselem at the end of the day, I got into the elevator and noticed a Coke can on the floor of the elevator. I was so freaked out that anything could be a bomb that I jumped out of the elevator and took the stairs.”

But Montell’s desire for national security and personal safety doesn’t mean that just anything goes. “Wanting to stop bus bombings is the most just cause in the world, but we still have to follow the rules,” she says. “It’s not in Israel’s interest to have uncritical support of bad policy. It would be in Israel’s interest to have an Israeli public asking tough questions. Instead, people are saying, ‘This is necessary for security,’ and critical debate shuts down.”

Montell in her office with Ety Dery, B’Tselem’s office manager.

As for the future, Montell, who perhaps is too humble about her personal accomplishments, does not seem ambitious about leading Human Rights Watch or such other large organizations. She is an Israeli, with Israeli concerns. And there is so much more to be done.

“Our struggle is Sisyphean,” she says. “We work for years for a small achievement that can be eroded so quickly. We celebrate small successes—like our ability to put an issue on the public agenda—but after the problem receives its 15 minutes of fame, the media moves on to other issues, and the problem often remains unsolved. But, I don’t think about giving up, because what is the alternative?

“My best hope for the future is that B’Tselem will be superfluous,” she adds. “I used to think this might be possible in 10 years; now that doesn’t seem likely. But I am still hopeful for the 50-year prognosis. If I wasn’t, I don’t think I could be raising children here. B’Tselem is part of building this hope.”

Tim Tibbitts is a writer in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and a frequent contributor to OAM. Special thanks go to Eleanor Mallet Bergholz ’65 for her guidance with this story.